The end has come for the Supreme Court's October 2004 Term. The six decisions announced yesterday completed the work of the Court for this term.
The Court finished with a bit of a flouish, with two high-profile 10 Commandment's cases (which arguably meant little) and the Grokster case (which arguably meant a lot) decided on the final day.
You can get the court opinions here:
van Orden v. Perry - the Texas 10 Commandment case (5-4 to allow the display)
McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky - the Kentucky 10 Commandment case (5-4 to bar display)
As you would expect, there is already a ton out there on these rulings. Click here for the SCOTUSblog meta-blog; Click here for Dahlia Lithwick's ever light-hearted opinions at Slate (including these nuggets: The public displays of religious symbols cases signify next to nothing, besides revealing that the court will never agree to a workable Establishment Clause test until someone retires. ... The two cases together must mean that if a display starts with a zealous religious purpose it can never be cured, but if it's huge, old, and carries a Post-it-note claiming to be historical, it can never be wrong.); Click here for a bit from the Volokh Conspiracy; Click here for ACSblog; and finaly, Click here for CNN.
MGM Studios v. Grokster - the internet piracy case (9-0 allowing liability for designers of software used for piracy)
Click here for the SCOTUSblog meta-blog; Click here for some Slate commentary by Prof. Tim Wu of UofVirginia Law School; Click here for Volokh Conspiracy; Click here for ACSblog; and finally, here for CNN.
Also in a case that got little to no press at the end of term, the Court decided 7-2 in Castle Rock v. Gonzales that the police are immune from suit when they fail to enforce a restraining order. In this case, a woman had a restraining order against her ex-husband, and had made several complaints about it not being respected. Eventually, the ex-husband kidnapped her kids, killed them, and then died himself in a gun-battle with police. Although there is not the press involved, this seems to me like an important issue. This case reminds me of the tragic circumstances of DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services. There a young boy was beaten so badly by his father that he became comotose and suffered traumatic brain damage so severe that he became permanently retarded - at four years old. The Dept. of Social Services had been informed, and responded to the abuse on multiple occasions, but never took any steps to protect the little boy from his abusive father. The mother sued, "alleging that the Department had deprived the child of his 'liberty interest in bodily integrity, in violation of his rights under the substantive component of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, by failing to intervene to protect him against his father's violence.' " The Court ruled that there are no minimal levels of safey or security that the State must provide, therefore the State - even though it had specifically intervened in the situation - owed no duty to poor little Joshua.
Similarly, in Castle Rock, the Court is saying that even when it specifically steps into the situation and seemingly offers protection in the form of a restraining order - the government owes no duty to actually perform that protection. No duty to protect these poor defenseless little kids, even with a court-ordered restraining order. So, the police are given the green light to ignore these sad situations - which will only lead to more tragedy in the future.
Frankly, I couldn't care less about some showy aparatus extolling the 10 Commandments on government property - if we don't have a government with the moral compass to step up and take responsibility for protecting our kids when it is their responsibility to do so. These kinds of decisions don't make headlines, but they break hearts. At least mine.
UPDATE: Apparently I wasn't alone in seeing the connection to DeShaney - SCOTUSblog mentions as much here.